They called him the Romeo of the Rink, Broadway Joe Namath on Skates and Mick Jagger on Ice. With his hazel-green eyes, sheepish little-boy grin and long curly hair, Ron Duguay breezed into the National Hockey League, oo-la-laed across the ice with his New York Ranger teammates in a jeans commercial, adorned the covers of magazines such as Forum and Interview and turned up in the gossip columns almost as often as he did in the sports pages.
Clippings about Duguay’s off-ice activities with the likes of Cheryl Tiegs, Farrah Fawcett, Cher, Patti LuPone and Bianca Jagger could have papered the entire New York locker room. That’s reportedly one reason Herb Brooks, the Rangers’ no-nonsense coach, traded Duguay to the Detroit Red Wings after six seasons last June. “Most of the things you read about in the gossip columns were not actual dates,” explains Duguay, “but, uh, we just kind of ran into each other.” Of course that was before he ran into California model and golden girl Robin Bobo, who captured Ron’s heart, stick, skates and $250,000 annual salary, not to mention his 6’2″, 205-pound frame, and married him last Dec. 1.
Preliminary scouting reports on the marriage are good. Robin is pregnant, and Ron seems genuinely glad his carefree bachelor days are behind him. “I like being married,” says Ron, 26, as he relaxes with his wife in their nine-room, four-bath, rented home in suburban Detroit. “Being with someone you love is just a really great feeling.” Robin, 22, concurs: “I’m a California beach girl; he’s a Canadian country boy. He’s used to winter and ice, and I’m used to surfing. We are really learning a lot about each other.”
When they met on a blind date during a Rangers road trip to Los Angeles in February 1983, Robin had never heard of her future husband. “I didn’t know anything about him or about hockey,” she says. “I didn’t even know hockey players were not supposed to be good-looking.” In a sport where gap-toothed smiles are as common as penalty whistles, Duguay looks more like an actor, model or rock star. Indeed, he has moonlighted as all three, appearing on a soap opera (Ryan’s Hope) as himself, netting fees up to $800 an hour for modeling, and recording a 45 called Hockey Sock Rock. Yet it wasn’t his looks that attracted Robin. “He was real sensitive and honest,” she says. “I felt good around him.” Ron, whose shyness and soft-spoken manner only add to his charm, says, “What attracted me was her personality. A lot of nice ladies are a turn-off when they start talking. But Robin was sort of like a puppy dog—curious, friendly and warm.”
A few days after they met, Duguay had to leave for a game in Minnesota. No sooner had he arrived than he called to invite her to spend a few days with him there. “And I went!” marvels Robin. “I couldn’t believe that I did it. I had never done anything like that before in my life.” Nor, according to Duguay, had he ever extended such an invitation. But, says Bobo, “we really had the best time, just being with each other. Plus,” she adds, employing a nice euphemism, “he started keeping me warm then. We’re married now, so I can say that.”
Ron didn’t go for the power play until they had dated all summer. First he shot wide: He asked her to move in with him. She refused, citing her growing modeling career in L.A. and her desire for a firmer commitment. Then he zeroed in on goal, proposing after a Paul Anka concert outside Detroit. “We were having a spat,” Robin recalls. “Then he pulled the car over to the side and said, ‘I want to spend my life with you, will you marry me?’ I told him, maybe. He thought anybody would jump at that and I think he felt kinda hurt, so I said yes.”
The wedding was a simple affair, held at St. Owen Catholic Church in suburban Birmingham, Mich. and attended by a few close friends and family. Bill McCauley, owner of the New York restaurant Cronies, was the best man, and New York model Lisa Norman was the maid of honor. The Duguays’ wedding night was spent in their three-level suburban Detroit home because they were too tired to check in to a nearby hotel. That would have been fine except for the fact that both Ron and Robin’s family were staying in the house too. “We went up to our bedroom and put a chair behind the door,” Robin reports. The honeymoon (in Hawaii or Tahiti) will have to wait until the hockey season is over.
Ron rates Robin high as a jock’s wife. She has learned the game and understands the ups and downs of a player’s professional life. As for the temptations of the road, Ron says he lacks the time and the inclination. “Actually, after a game,” he adds, “I like to go somewhere private and avoid people.” Says Robin: “I don’t worry about groupies and other women one bit. I feel secure. I trust him.”
To be sure, Duguay’s reputation has been exaggerated. “No human being could do all that he was supposed to have done,” says McCauley. “It would be a circus. He got around and he knew a lot of people, but there were other times too—when he went out with a few guys to a movie or a play. There were never any photographers around then.”
The New York City nightlife was a long way from Sudbury, the nickel-mining town of 32,000 in Ontario where Duguay grew up, the son of an electrician. Ron began skating at age 3. His parents did all they could manage to nurture his talent, including the construction of an outdoor rink in the neighborhood.
Duguay bypassed higher education for junior hockey, was drafted by the Rangers at 19 and swept into the NHL with dazzle and flair, bringing Ranger fans to their feet with his rink-long rushes, his curly locks flying behind him. He had his best and worst times playing hockey in New York. The best: his 40-goal 1981-82 season. The worst: “What I went through last year. I never had a year as bad as that.” His production dropped to 19 goals, New York fans started booing him, and differences with Brooks led to his banishment to Detroit.
The day after he was traded, Ron was sitting in his apartment with a sportswriter. The phone rang. Cheryl Tiegs was calling to wish him good luck. Another ring. This time it was Farrah on the wire. No wonder Ron missed New York. But he has adapted to the slower pace in Detroit. “Getting married,” he says, “and having a beautiful wife has changed my priorities.”
Robin, a stunning natural beauty in the Christie Brinkley mold, was born in Los Angeles. She was the only child of an Italian mother and Cherokee Indian father, a couple who divorced when Robin was 7. A year later her mother married a car-financing executive. Robin credits her mother, Gerri, a former model and hairdresser who is now an interior decorator, with teaching her an important lesson. “I learned how to treat a man from her,” says Robin. “You love and respect him, yet you keep your own individualism.”
Robin graduated from Dana Hills High School near Laguna Beach a year early, completed cosmetology school and later moved to her family’s vacation home in Palm Springs, where she worked as a hairdresser. Her modeling career started by accident. She was dating a model and went with him one day to drop off some photographs at his agency. The agent saw Robin, exclaimed, “Where did you get her?” and signed her on the spot. Soon afterward she switched to an L.A. agency. Robin has stopped modeling until after the baby is born next September, but when she is working she earns $175 to $200 an hour. She has done ads for Löwen-bräu, Jordache jeans, Etonic running shoes, Datsun, Clairol and others she can’t even remember. “I never kept scrapbooks,” she says matter-of-factly. “All I cared about then was making money.”
When the Duguays travel, they usually don’t have to worry about a place to stay. They have Ron’s one-bedroom Manhattan apartment, a two-bedroom vacation home on Hilton Head Island, S.C. that they’ve never seen, another place in Sarasota, Fla. and Robin’s town house in Laguna Beach. The couple recently bought a three-bath, three-bedroom home outside Detroit.
Living together has required some adjustments. Robin never cooked in California, but now in the morning she makes Ron’s breakfast favorite, French toast. Their only point of contention is Ron’s bushy mane, permed reluctantly by Robin, who wants him to grow it out. She also wants to see less of it during games. He is one of only five Red Wing players who do not wear helmets. “I’d hate to see him get hurt,” she says. “We don’t even discuss it anymore. He knows how I feel.” Ron counters that it isn’t a question of vanity. “I just don’t like the discomfort of wearing a helmet. It’s hot and confining. I can’t stand it.”
So far, Duguay hasn’t found marriage the least bit confining. “Things have been going really well for me,” he says. “This is an exciting time—the play-offs, a new wife, a child on the way. I think I have it all now.